Mrs Bovary: Race Track

Mrs Bovary Race Track

Writer, illustrator and self-confessed sociopath Mrs Bovary offers up parental musings. This week, brutality or boys being boys?

The nursery school playground features a small racetrack around which the children cycle on bikes and drive little plastic cars at break time. At the end of his sessions, Hubert likes to play there for a while before going home for lunch.

There are four boys in particular who bound out of the classroom after school and race around the track each day. Their mothers, duty bound to chaperone and watch them from the sidelines, form a small group, and in so doing they slide into a race of their own, jostling each other for supremacy in the ways of parenting and personal trainers.

Meanwhile, on the track, the boys’ characters assert themselves. One meanders gently around, stopping now and then to rummage in the sandpit. Another, too lazy to go his own way, hitchhikes onto the back of a mini tandem, chauffeured by a boy who races a phantom friend called Anthony. And then there is the fourth boy – the cat among the pigeons – who hurtles around, hot on the tails of all the others, tunnel-visioned and determined. Amid the niceties of the small talk and mild sneers, the mothers fix one eye on him, watching anxiously as he pursues their sons. His tactic to win the race is to single out one boy and run over his feet, causing him to cry and veer off the track.

The mothers witness this and break away from each other, shocked and yet relieved; they are reeling from a different form of lapping. The mother of the injured party rushes over and examines him. She tries to stem the wailing. She offers a smile to the other women with a look that says ‘boys will be boys’ – aware of the pressure on her not to express too much concern. She must pass this off as ‘boy behaviour’ and not brutality. “It’s good for them”, they all concede. But when the boy doesn’t stop crying, rather than appealing to the aggressor’s mother (she cannot risk the grievous social fallout), she instead does what any other woman in her situation would do. She says: “Oh, it’s fine. He’s just really tired. I had better take him home.” And everyone simply nods; the status quo is restored. They peel the boys off their bikes and call an end to play.

{All images: © Bovary & Co}

Mrs Bovary is a writer and illustrator. She has one son, aged 3. Her New Year’s resolution is to attempt to be a calmer, more enlightened parent with the arrival of her second child in April. Follow Mrs Bovary on twitter @BelsizeBovary, visit her blog or go shopping at Bovary & Co.

Do you ever feel pressured to discount bad behaviour as normal for boys? Or is your boy rougher than his friends? How do you respond?